It’s been a while since I walked around our town pond, so I bundled up (the wind was pretty fierce as well as cold) and headed down there. In my mind, our pond is a lot like Garrison Keilor’s tales of Lake Woebegon. I call our pond the “Pondillaquent,” and I always come up with stories about the inhabitants and their habits.
All the ice has gone out, and the edges of the pond were full of bright green algae. There were no turtles or blue herons or frogs to be seen yet, but there was a couple of ducks and a pair of cormorants on the water. Seeing as how they were dipping below the surface, there must be enough of something to eat.
One lone redwing black bird was scouting the reeds on the edge of the pond for his lady-love’s future nesting ground. As he was the only one, I’m sure he got the best spot for his future kiddos.
As always, there were plenty of seagulls soaring overhead. I often imagine their chats as they fly over the freezing water: “Hey! Why did we leave the ocean to go to this pond? It’s WAY more cold than the ocean! AND there are no fish here!”
When I walk around the pond, I always think of my grandmother, who taught me everything she knew about the habits of bears, rabbits, squirrels and birds. She taught me kindness and empathy for these creatures, and how to approach and respect them. I realize now that she probably was sort of an animal empath; all creatures seemed to come to her, knowing that they were safe.
Every evening, my grandmother would load up a large pie plate with leftovers. She would remind me to stay quiet and move slowly as to not spook our dinner guests. Usually the raccoons came for the first “seating,” and I remember the thrill of patting a real live raccoon (fortunately he was too busy eating to get upset about it).
She once told me about the skunk who got his head stuck in a peanut butter jar; he was trying to lick up the rest of the peanut butter at the bottom of the jar. She heard him bumbling around, opened the back door and said: “go up to the stone wall and swing your head into one of the rocks, and you’ll be free.”
And wouldn’t you know, that little skunk somehow understood. He managed to break the jar in two neat pieces, finished up the peanut butter, and went on his merry way. These and so much else I remember when walking the “Pondillaquent.” These are my own “Lake Wobegone” stories.